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GET REAL: The drug of fear


GET REAL: The drug of fear

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I love the fact that people still walk around in their BLP or DLP campaign T-shirts.

There are places in the world where that can’t happen. Or at least it would be a risk. Forget wearing an official political party emblem.  In some places simply wearing the wrong colour can make you a target.

Not in Bim. 

Those campaign shirts are just shirts. 

This is the first time that I can remember hearing about campaign violence in the US.  Though it is mild by international standards, the clashes between Donald Trump supporters and protesters is notable due to the rarity of such occurrences being reported. 

When people are relatively comfortable and a country is stable, an election is seen as no big deal.  Things won’t change all that much no matter who wins.  They might as well flip a coin.

When the ship starts to rock a bit and the waves are high, all of a sudden people have grave interest in who is at the helm.  When waters were calm it could have been Ossie Moore captaining the ship and few would have cared.  At least not enough to take any real action. 

Complaining on the call-in programmes doesn’t count. 

When jobs disappear, taps run dry, salaries get withheld, bills climb and crime rises, voters’ eyes get wide and passions flare.  Fear is the stimulant.  This is the drug the opposition candidate peddles to the masses. It is cheap, fast-acting and easily accessible. “The sky is falling,” is the slogan of opposition parties worldwide.  It is meant to get you running to the polls like doped-up headless chickens.

Because there are few things as motivating as fear, the incumbent will have a hard time resisting the urge to deal in it as well.  Appeals to love, patience, faith and other positive values are a harder sell in these times. 

The opposition will most times be painted as a tyrant in waiting; a power-hungry egomaniac.  At best, those in power hope that fear of the barbarians at the parliament gates will drive the people to vote in favour of the devil they know.  At worst, confused about who to choose, the people will stay away from the polls.  A low turnout usually favours the incumbent.

An alternative to the threat of the savages in opposition, is the threat of savages from afar.  A party or candidate will position itself as the only hope against invading hordes.  Groups popularly used as scapegoat-boogie men, in recent times, are Muslims, Mexicans and Guyanese.

When people get high on politics they do all kinds of strange things. There are nations populated by large numbers of political paros, hooked on this or that party, unable to stop smoking the propaganda crack pipe of their party of choice.  They will lie, cheat, steal and kill for their party.  For better or worse, for richer or poorer, they will stand by their party.  Til death, do they part, even when the party is unfaithful to them.

We have some of those here as well, but they are fewer than elsewhere and their addiction to party is comparatively sedate.  Instead of political paros, we call them yardfowls; a nuisance but relatively harmless.

This is for now.  We are beginning to feel the rumbling in the political tectonic plates that form this region.  The narcotic effects of fear and uncertainty are being felt more and more, little by little.  It will be a test of the strength and character of the Caribbean people to resist the intoxicating lure of politically induced fear and the chaos that ensues.

The fear that can light a fire under a slumbering voter base has its source overseas. We import everything, even political expediencies.  An economic downturn in North America or bombings by Islamic fundamentalists can cause fear to wash ashore in Barbados like bales of cocaine.

It reminds me of the reputed CIA crack cocaine link.

The crack epidemic of the mid-1980s was fuelled by the US Central Intelligence Agency’s collaboration with Latin American drug cartels.  Funds from cocaine and crack trafficking were used by the US State Department to train and supply militia groups fighting against the socialist government in Nicaragua.  It is alleged that the US government dumped the drugs into black communities in the American ghettos and in the Caribbean.

Whether knowingly or unknowingly that is where they ended up.

Before ushering in the crack epidemic under the Reagan administration, the “war on drugs,” was developed by the Nixon administration in the 60s.

A former top Nixon adviser, John D. Ehrlichman, admitted in an 1994 interview that, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people… We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalising both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news.”

Here we have a great example of fear being used as a political tool.  We also see how long-lasting the effects of the drug of fear are.  Persons today, who were raised on US drug war propaganda are paralysed and incapable of seeing the illogic and counterproductive nature of current approaches to drug use and abuse.

More recently we saw how the fear induced by the September 11 attacks provided the mass support for the illegal war in Iraq. 

Fear produces stress hormones preparing us to fight or flee. These internally produced chemicals are damaging.  Persons who manipulate our fears for their gain are not nice.  Hopefully the Caribbean public is not as susceptive as the masses who are fighting behind Donald Trump or fleeing towards Hilary Clinton.

Adrian Green is a creative communication specialist who thinks the only thing to fear is fear itself. Email: [email protected]